GREENVILLE — It was a little windy and a little chilly on Sunday afternoon, but that didn’t stop plenty of runners and walkers from taking part in the seventh annual Yellow Jacket Challenge.
A total of 370 runners and more than 200 walkers/fun runners took part in the event, which serves a fundraiser for Education Foundation of Greenville. Proceeds are used exclusively for wellness, exercise and nutrition programs throughout Greenville Public Schools.
The event features a 5K run, a one-mile walk and young Yellow Jacket fun runs.
“It was an absolutely fabulous day,” race director Penny Dora said. “The new course was very well received and we have already heard positive feedback from runners about it.”
The top male finisher was former Greenville runner Blake Bitner with a time of 17:18.2. Another former Greenville runner and 800-meter state champion (1995) Rob Stowe finished second overall with a time of 17:46.5.
The top female finisher, for the second consecutive year, was Grand Rapids’ Tasha Gregg with a time of 21:37.5.
This year’s race featured chip timing for the first time.
“Everyone loved the new chip timing. That was definitely a hit,” Dora said.
Part of the new course included the race finish line at Legacy Field (Greenville High School’s football stadium). Runners made their way through the tunnel and finished on the 30-yard line with names being announced and music blaring from the sound system.
“Having the events on Legacy Field was a home run decision,” Dora said. “The field was packed with people and there was a lot of excitement in the air. It was amazing.
“There were so many families enjoying the day together and that has been our goal from the very start,” she added.
Greenville’s Josh Schad ran the event for the first time and enjoyed the course.
“It’s a nice clean course. Everything was well marked,” he said. “I tried to run right around a 10-minute mile and I think that’s what I did. I’m trying to get ready for the Greenville Triathlon.”
Schad finished with a time of 31:21.7.
Big Rapids resident Betty Coady was also running the event for the first time. Originally from Chicago, Coady finished with a time of 35:20.5.
“This was a very organized event,” Coady said. “I try to run a lot of 5Ks. I just ran one in Chicago recently. I lost a little bit of time on the hill, but I don’t try and beat my times. I just run to get out there.”
There were 101 first-time 5K runners this year.
“That represents a wide range of ages,” Dora said. “That is incredible and really indicates how welcoming this event is for new runners.”
Following the race, guest speaker Scott Rigsby spoke to the community. Rigsby, a double amputee and accomplished Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon runner, ran the race in 26:47.7.
“This is was an incredible opportunity for us to bring inspiration to runners of all abilities and impress upon them that they can overcome obstacles and become successful in their goals,” Dora said. “I am grateful to the Tri Greenville committee for arranging Scott’s visit. It was definitely an experience that will be remembered by our runners.”
More than 100 people stayed after the event to hear Rigsby speak and to meet with him following his presentation.
Results for the Yellow Jacket Challenge can be found www.playmakers.com.